The Madden Curse. We’ve all heard about it, the age old superstition that athletes who grace the cover of the Madden NFL games have terrible performances and/or injuries the next season they take the field. We decided to take a deeper look into the curse in a two part analysis. In the first part of our analysis we breakdown the last 5 years of Madden titles to really see whether the Madden Curse superstition has really effected previous NFL superstar cover athletes.
Madden NFL 15‘s fan-voted athlete was Seattle Seahawks star cornerback, Richard Sherman, who was fresh off a Superbowl title and a big contract extension. The Madden curse didn’t seem to effect Sherman much, as his tackle totals were on par with previous seasons, although his interceptions were down from 8 to 4. The lack of interceptions was due to the fact offensive coordinators around the league took notice of Sherman’s defensive playmaking ability and gameplanned around not throwing in his direction. The Seahawks did come close to becoming repeat champions in 2015, but came up short against the New England Patriots. After the Superbowl Richard Sherman had surgery on a torn ligament in his elbow, but never missed a game throughout the entire season and playoff run. So was Richard Sherman cursed? Not really.
Madden 25, which was technically Madden 14 but the name was changed due to the 25th anniversary, featured a vote between “New School” and “Old School” players. The finalists were Detroit Lions’ legend Barry Sanders and Minnesota Vikings runningback Adrian Peterson. Sanders beat out Peterson for the cover, but there was still later generation prints of the game with Peterson on the cover. Since Barry Sanders is long retired, only Adrian Peterson could have been effected by the Madden Curse. Peterson came off a 2000 yard rushing season before gracing the cover, and the following season he didn’t repeat his stellar numbers, but wasn’t terrible either. Instead of on-field issues, Peterson suffered a terrible loss off the field with the death of his 2 year old son.
Madden fans voted Detroit Lions’ wide receiver Calvin Johnson as the cover athlete in 2012, and if there was any player who would prove this whole Madden Curse thing wrong it was him. Calvin Johnson had the best season of his career, breaking the single season record for receiving yards with 1964, and also lead the league in receptions with 122 catches. I think it’s pretty clear that the Madden Curse had absolutely no effect on Calvin Johnson.
The cover vote for Madden 12 came down to Philladelphia Eagles’ QB Michael Vick and Cleveland Browns’ runningback Peyton Hillis, with Hillis winning with 66% of fan votes. He went on to only play 10 games in the 2011-2012 season, and left the Browns in free agency in the offseason for the Kansas City Chiefs. Peyton Hillis even acknowledged the Madden Curse, hinting that he believed it played a part in his poor performance that season.
Madden 11 was the first Madden title to have a fan voted cover, with New Orleans Saints’ QB Drew Brees beating out Minnesota Vikings’ Jared Allen and Indianapolis Colts’ Reggie Wayne for cover honors. Brees’ season was overall on par with previous seasons, except posting a career high in interceptions with 22. The Saints failed to reach the Superbowl to defend their crown, losing in the wildcard game, but overall Drew Brees had an above average year for NFL quarterbacks.
So does the Madden Curse actually effect the cover athletes? Definitely not. 4 of the 5 players that have been featured on the front of Madden games in recent years have had either excellent seasons or have been at least on par with previous seasons. In part 2 of our analysis we’ll take a look at cover athletes of other sports game franchises and see how they stack up against the Madden Curse.